Review: Handel & Haydn marks bicentennial with Gabriela Lena Frank premiere

Posted on: June 23, 2015

“When the Handel and Haydn Society was founded in 1815, Haydn had died only a few years earlier,” writes Jeremy Eichler in Saturday’s (6/20) Boston Globe. “H&H’s mission in its earliest days was, in other words, not only to curate music of a distant past, but also to engage with an art that was still new. As the organization planned this season’s bicentennial celebrations, it was a great idea to honor this fact by commissioning a new work. On Thursday night in Symphony Hall, Gabriela Lena Frank’s ‘My Angel, his name is freedom’ received its premiere as part of an eclectic and well-sung choral program of works by Handel, Bach, and others, performed under the direction of Harry Christophers.… For her H&H work, a co-commission with the Library of Congress, Frank set lines taken from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s ‘Boston Hymn,’ a Civil War-era poem that extols the end of slavery in the lofty, fervid language of the Transcendentalists. Scored for chorus and string quintet, the piece begins with an extended introduction for the strings alone. The music is taut and involving, with angular lines and pungent, darkly colored harmonies.”

Posted June 23, 2015

Harry Christophers leads the Handel & Haydn Society at Symphony Hall, June 18, 2015. Image by Gretjen Helene Photography